Children with disabilities from birth to age 21 may be eligible for special education. School-age children who are eligible usually receive special education services in the public school. Preschool children may receive services at school, at home, or both. Students with disabilities who attend private or religiously affiliated schools also may be eligible for special education services.
Federal law, IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) defines “children with disabilities” as having any of the following types of disabilities:
- Developmental delay (State option)
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
- Specific learning disability
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment (including blindness).
Definition of Special Education
Special Education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Special education includes:
- Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings
- Instruction in physical education
- Vocational education, if it consists of specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.
- Speech pathology, or any other related service, if the service consists of specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability and is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards
"At no cost" means that all specially designed instruction is provided without charge, but does not preclude incidental fees which are normally charged to non-disabled students or their parents as part of the regular education program.
Children may be referred through the Child Find Program. "Child Find" is the term used for the process of locating, identifying, and evaluating children and youth who may be in need of special education services and programs. A referral may be made by anyone who suspects that a child may have special needs, a delay in development, or a disability. Screening and assessment must be completed prior to identifying a student as eligible for special education.
How do I Refer a Child?
For children who are below the age of three, call the Howard County Infants and Toddlers Program at 410-313-7017 or write to:
Howard County Infants and Toddlers Program
8930 Stanford Blvd.
Columbia, MD 21045
Parents may also email firstname.lastname@example.org
For children who are 3 through 5 years old, call the Child Find Team at 410-313-7046 or write to:
Child Find Team
County Diagnostic Center
5451 Beaverkill Road
Columbia, MD 21044.
For school age children who are enrolled in the Howard County Public Schools, speak with the child’s teacher or the principal.
For school age children who are enrolled in private or religiously affiliated schools, call the County Diagnostic Center at 410-313-7046 or write to:
County Diagnostic Center
5451 Beaverkill Road
Columbia, MD 21044
Why Should a Child be Referred?
Parents, family members, guardians, physicians, day care or preschool providers, teachers, or staff members from community agencies may refer a child if they have concerns about a child’s difficulty:
- Using words
- Understanding directions
- Being understood by others
- Sitting up or walking
Children may also be referred if there are concerns about problems at birth, general health, medical conditions, behavior, or emotional development
What are Identification and Assessment?
Identification is a process used to decide if a child may have a disability and, therefore, need evaluation. Screening includes review of information provided by the parent and by the preschool or school, if the child is enrolled in one. If the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team decides that the child may have a disability and be in need of special education, the team recommends assessments to determine eligibility and identify the child’s educational needs. Additional information regarding identification, assessment, and evaluation may be obtained by calling the numbers listed above in "How do I Refer a Child."
The Howard County Public School System assures full educational opportunities by providing free and appropriate educational programs and related services for students with disabilities.